Ryutagama: Karatsu Kiln of Nakazato Takeshi-san Feb24

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Ryutagama: Karatsu Kiln of Nakazato Takeshi-san

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A few days ago, I went to the northwest Kyushu kiln town of Karatsu where  I dropped in at Ryutagama, the kiln of one of my favorite ceramic artists—world-renowned Nakazato Takashi-san. The fifth son of the late Living National Treasure Nakazato Taroemon Muan, Takashi-san and his eldest brother Houan-san are part of the 12th generation in this family of Karatsu potters.  The founder of the line was one of a few Korean potters brought to Karatsu in the late 1500′s to create what was to become one of Japan’s foremost kilns.

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Muan became a Living National Treasure because of his creative talent, which revitalized Karatsu after a long period of decline. Takashi, now about 70 years old, is known throughout the world, especially for his work in the U.S., Denmark and Jamaica. In addition to his own individual interpretation of classic Karatsu ware, he also introduced an extremely soft and warm looking unglazed ware made with clay from the island of Tanegashima.

Ryutagama is located in a small enclave of structures, tucked in amongst a  few hills with a vigorous mountain stream flowing down the middle.  Soft classical music plays in the workshop, covered on three sides with windows with views of terraced vegetable gardens. It is one of the most idyllic work spaces I have ever seen. As shown in the following images, Takashi-san creates functional ware for both the dining table and the tearoom.